tv Tavis Smiley PBS April 14, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PDT
good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley and when you are thinking of the term civil war, what comes to mind? the answer is not surprisingly depends upon who you ask. tonight, the harvard author and historian david armitage joins us to talk about his new book "civil war, the history and ideas" and in the text he explores the conplex notion that has molded our ideas about politics and democracy. then we pivot to a conversation with a.c. horn about a better conversation called saul. we will retwurn a conversation with david armitage and a.c. horn in a moment.
ancient times to current conflicts in iraq and syria, and professor armitage, and a honor to have you on the program, sir. >> thank you, tavis. >> if ever there were a contested term civil war would be it, and we want to get to why it is so contested in a second, but i want toer start out by asking what is it about these civil wars to make you interest ed enough to do the research on it. >> this book calm to me in southern california about ten years ago when i was woshing at the beautiful huntington library outside of pasadena, and reading the letter s s of a man named francis lieber who was a lawyer in the 1860s and charged to the write the first codes of the war for the army during with what we call the u.s. civil war. he was having trouble defining what a civil war was. i was interested in his difficulties trying to understand what the term was, and how to nail it down. particularly, because i was reading newspaper reports of exa exactly that moment, and this is late 2006 and early 2007 with the height of the violence in iraq after the u.s.-led will
invasion, and 3,000 to 4,000 ople amongst were dying, and there was a big debate here, is this an insurgency or rebellion or civil war? so that debate was going on in the newspapers and the televisions as i was reading the lett letters from the middle of the 19th century and as i said, history ryhis history rhinedt that moment, and why did history get to this point at the same debate two and a half centuries apart. >> and when you say rhymed. what you mean? >> slarm debates. lieber trying to fine what a civil war is as a debate in the early u.s. early 21st century, and politicians, commentators and strategists also trying to decide what makes a civil war. is it the number of people who d die? the par i thes the that are fighting? the warrings they have? d i wondered why after 150 years we have not managed to decide what was or what was not a civil war, and i wonder what
were the conditions that made it so difficult and so fraught, especially in tehe early 21st century, why was that so politically contest adt this moment? i thought that it might have a history. >> and pardon, the question, and you will understand why i am asking, but pardon it anyway. why does it matter? if war is hell and people are dying unnecessarily and again if war is not the answer, with why does it matter whether it is defined as a civil war or not? >> in the contemporary world and in our world and the 2 #st century a great deal hangs on t it. and let me give you a very contemporary example. in the beginning of the syrian conflict, you could find people all over syria saying to themselves and to the world we are in the middle of a civil war. and it took nearly a year nor international commuittee of the red cross to determine that what was going on inside of syria is a civil war or to use the technical term the noninternational armed conflict, and wa what happened at that
point is the aspects of the geneva conventions could kick in, in a way they could not before once that dedecision was made whether or not that was a civil war n. meantime, in the months between the beginnings of the conflict in syria, and that determination 17,000 people have die ed, and so it is interesting and i'm still interested in precisely that gap between what people are experiencing on the ground when they are going through the conflict and then what the red cross, the world bank, the u.n., and other outside parties are saying is going on there. and so there is still a contestation, and this is an effect on the lives of thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of people, and it is a matter of literal life and death. >> i don't like the word genocide, but once that word is applied to whatever the conflict is, it changes everything about how we view it, and about what can be for a better term activated. >> right. it has legal consequence, and political consequences and
consequence s ts on the ground, consequences for the international community. >> so what did you learn then about the history rhyming with our contemporary moment in testimonies of how we in fact go about defining what a civil war is. >> i learned that it is not just a problem from the 21st century or the 20th century or the 19th century, because it is going back to all of the way back to what i found was the beginnings of the difficulty of deciding a civil war or not. it is one of the stories that it took ten years to the write the book, and far too long in some ways, but i kept having to digginging back and back and like an arnchaeologist and ancient researcher through rome, and when the term was first coined and through their conflicts the romans found it is a phrase they wanted to avoid if they could. julius ceasar is the perhaps most civil war your of all writes a history of his own conflict that he called the
civil war and he could not use the term himself, because it is too charge and too dangerous. for the fellow citizens it was the worst war they could imagine. you said earlier that war is hell but through the 2,000-year history, everybody has said that war may be hell, but civil war is the worst circle of the he will, l. >> why is civil war the worst circle? >> well, it is so sbi markets and battle against the intimate enemies and familiar enemies and even enemies within the families. so much of the imagery of the civil war is a division within the family, and brother against b brother, and father against son and the most intimate communities being torn apart, and that is horrible enough in itself, but it leaves scars and wounds that can take generation, and sometimes centuries to heal. it is a much more wrenching process, because it tears at the
fabric and the heart of the most basic communities even down to the level of the family. >> and in some levels it is fratricide. >> yes. >> and still it begs this question which is whether or not there are winners and losers when a civil war is declared, and is there any way that you can answer that question that allows us to see a pattern through history of who the winners and the losers are once a civil war is declared? >> everybody loses in the civil war and even though who may come out on top through a military victory for instance, and that is one of the consistent lessons in the 2,000 years, because of the wounds and the destruction, and the difficulties of restoring trust and literally restoring the fabric of society after a civil war, and nobody is a victor, and in civil wars, and that is something that xhen taers or the and those who have been through the civil wars have consistently over the centuries, that it is a kind of war that never has vicks or the and the romance said never triumphs, because it is a tramg di evgedyr
the victors. >> and this is a question that i want to ask because i believe there is some learnings here. what role has our u.s. government had in launching or starting civil wars around the globe? le well, it would say th-- wells saying that it would not do that or it is defending various groups -- >> it would say, that the government would say that? >> yes, and nobody says they are going to start a civil war within a country itself or coming from the outside. they the always have otherwise talking about it which is another dimension of why it is a contested term. but if you are thinking back to say the post war period, the 1960s, '70s and the proxy wars around the world during the cold war, many of those are what we would now call civil wars, but they are also what the scholars would call centralized wars to the draw in the outside parties and whether it is the one or two
superpowers of the war, and nobody in early 21st century is civil, and by that we mean inside of one community, and only of interest to somebody in that community and it has a history going back to the cold war period in particular. >> and i'm not naive in asking this question, and if, david, the civil wars are the worst kinds of wars are we seeing the increase, and the uptic of the civil wars and not a decrease, and why can't we learn from the past about how hellish these conflict s cs can be when they civil in nature. >> the motivations always remain, and sometimes they accelerate. we saw this after 1989, starting in the balkans in europe, and the first time that war had come back into the european continent with the breakup of the former yugoslavia and also in africa in the same period of the 1980s and 1990s and one small bit of hope
is that uptick from 1939 for about 30 years, the rise in the number of civil wars at the same time that there was a notable decrease of the number of wars between the states. what we are seeing right now, in the last two to the three years is a downturn in the number of civil wars itselves, and whether that the trend is going to continue, no one can be sure, but the sri lan can civil war which has been going on for 25 years end eded a few years and colombian civil war going on for more than 50 years has been finally ended by a peace accord. so we have seen destructive and very difficult conflicts coming to a conclusion around the world, and maybe the trendline is a little bit more positive and we are seeing the end of wars within states, and announcing the ends of wars within the states as well. >> and let me ask you a question, because every no and then, and you are the expert here, but there are the stories evenb to dabout certain parts oe
country, and the secession threats. and what are you seeing there? >> that the exist country will fight tooth, nail and with every resou resource it possibly can to keep any part of the territory within that country. so we are right here in southern california now, and everyone i have talked to in the last couple of days has been saying that you are writing about civil wars and what do you think of california's secession, and one hand i would join you, but there is something else to be said by washington, d.c. and so they will throw everything at you. and so that is almost one of the iron laws of history that any country who has once declared the independence, and going back to 1776 for the u.s. is very, very reluctant indeed to let any
part of the territory to break away even if it is more than 200 years later. so try it at your peril here. >> and i think that vladimir putin comes to mind, because even after you have broken off, they will still try to come back. >> yes, that is right, even decades later. >> and david armitage's new book is called "civil wars, a history in ideas." david, thank you for the book, and good to have you on the program, sir. >> a pleasure to be here. and up next, actor ray seahorn. stay with us. ray seahorn is back as the smart and ambitious attorney in the better show called "saul." and now people want to know what happens with kim and jimmy as they are getting closer to breaking bad, and now you are having a scene from the new season of "better call saul."
>> i will do the wills. >> no, you won't. >> i will do the wills. they are my clients. >> you and i are not partners and remember, once we take these people on, you can't just reassign these people. >> why are you getting all legal on me. who cares? >> lack look, i told every one of them the situation that they would be getting me instead of you and tried to talk them to coming back another day, and six of them left. if it is about the money. >> it is not about the money. you can keep the money. >> don't ask act like i needed this. do i need more on my plate. >> are we having fun yet? >> right. >> and for those who have not seen it, it is a prequel to "breaking bad." and how far back are we going? is >> i am always trying to do the exact math but i believe it falls between 5, 5 1/2 years prior, and we have seen the time lapse that they have gone past "breaking bad" and the prequel
as well, and back to the mailroom scenes and stuff. >> and so the two the-part question, what is the fup part and the challenge of starring in a prequel to a series that everybody knows? ll, i mean, certainly parts of it that were daunting. it was a huge "breaking bad" fan, and the plo shows to come get eyeballs on it. and it is no big thing that there was a fan base there that was interested in what vince gill and others want to the write as well as the character stories. but, yeah, it can be daunting, and you can have fans hate it, because why isn't this "breaking bad, season 6." you know what i mean? and so i am glad that they made sure it is not "breaking bad, season 6." it is its own thing, and there are nods to "breaking bad" and no mistake to the quality of
writing and the multi layered of assume the intelligence of the audience, but it is its own tone and it own pace. i have the benefit of, of their not being an expectation for who kim was, and where she is going. and plus, we learn about the characters, and the new characters, you learn about them as almost at the same pace as the audience. the scripts are coming one at a time. and you know, when i played that first smoking garage parking garage scene, and smoking with j jimmy, and on the pilot, they said that they had known each other for ten years and not sure exactly how and why and on what level, but there is an extreme intimacy and confi dense between the two, and that is what we played. so you know what i mean? you unpeel that layer with everybody else. >> and testing the thes piian chop chops. >> it is fun. >> it is like a high wire though? it is a little bit.
and peter and vincent, the whole amazing writing stuff, they talk about the fact that they are constantly painting themselves into the corners and hoping that they can get out. it is one of the only shows that does not have a bible meaning an extensive outline for not just the series, but not even season by season. they have ideas, and clear ly this is a prequel to this one definitively has end points to deal with, but, yeah, they like the leave a little bit of it organic while constantly planting the very detailed seed s that are blooming and growing, you know, in the background and then you go back to them, and you say, i remember that, that seed was planted a while ago and everyone, melf included is affixed to that strange organic unvaling of the story and character. >> step outside of the character kim, and ask you, ray, whether you like the idea of being on the high wire? you like being in the situation
of playing a character for from week to week, you don't know where this thing is going? >> yes. i mean, i can be terrifying. but in other i ways, this particular role has forced me to get back to what any actor would tell you that it is the key to the best acting that you can do which is to be present in the moment, because your character shouldn't know what is happening around the corner. and yes, some awareness working on the craft and the stories of what is the arc here, and the journey so that you can make the most dramatic beginning, middle and end that you can, but this is a little bit more, and it is a little different. it is a high wire act, but i think that the reason that it does not feel scary is because of the writers. it doesn't feel manipulative and that they know it and they are not telling you and they want you to see you dance as fast as you can, because this is an organic world, and it is season one where jimmy is calling me from chuck's house.
and chuck is still very ill and he has not been prak ising the law for a long time, and jimmy is excited that chuck has agreed to work on the sand piper case with him. and he is calling kim in her office to the look something up, and he is very excite tad his brother wants to work with him and feeling healthier and for them to have a reason to bond. the script had that kim hay hesitates and a bunch of ellipses, and then no words. so i started to ask innocuous and tedious questions of, well, i don't know, i don't have my printer code. they are going to bill me, and theyyou. and he said, great, i am going the get the printer code from chuck, and i said, i am going to be somewhere and saying weird things and hesitating and so i went to them and i said, well -- and at this point i, like many people, was projecting on the
handling character that he has the string, and that there is something deep underneath that relationship surface, but i did not get why she was being that way, and they said, well, we are not sure. we think that she he has a weird feeling in your gut about him, and so do we. and this is where we are living right no, and it is like, but, how do i play that? i said, well, you just play that the. and this is exactly what happens in the real life, and so often we played, that and it is amazing to just let go and play that. >> that is requiring you to one thing, to trust your fellow actors, but requires an extreme amount of trust in the writing staff. >> yes. but like many people who have seen the glorious work of these writers, that part wasn't hard. bob said the same thing were you afraid of doing a prequel and not if vince and peter said they would do it, because they will
only do it if it is a tale they want to tell, and they will put everything into it. so there is an extreme amount of trust around, and the crew, too, and it is crazy. and now with hd and the binge watching and the avoid fan, and i remember starting in theater and beginning in television a decade ago and if you had a newspaper on the desk, you could put latin on it, because you can't read it. our fans do a freeze frame and write articles on it and looking at my diploma in the wall, and the post-its are filled out, and very good forgers now, and everybody on the crew now knows my handwrite, and kim has a lot of post-its. >> i cannot ask you where the character is headed, because you don't know. >> thank god. i am not good at secrets, so i can keep under wraps of what i have said one through ten. and i can't tell you where she ended up, and it is not dyed in
the wool yet. >> and do you have interests of where you would like to see this relationship go? >> yes, and no, and i am enjoying how authentic this is, and the sort of the discovery of what that authenticity looks like and playing a relationship of when it is a lot of bizarre circumstance, and extreme characters, and it is still remains an incredibly excessive come up to bob and i talked about how i love that it looks like a real relationship, and it look likes the two of them have a foundation of love and respect for one another, and when you are talking about these two people. but some of it, it just comes from things like being able to leave the room mad. a lot of time on television, you have to resolve the argument within the scene or people are very worried. instead, the takeaway that people have been having is, oh, yeah, i have totally told my partner to get away from me, and
i i know that you will be the breakfast. that is ten years, and that is what ten years looks like. >> you like the idea of playing a lawyer with these moral dilemmas? >> i do. i do. when i first found out that the character was a lawyer, i presumed, and i was right, and it does not happen often, but i was right that they were not going to be doing a procedural, and this is not going to be a law show about doing a court case and it is more about humans that have happened to practice law, and what that does to them. so i was talking to my manager, and alyssa raidenberg who went to law school and so i said, can you recommend, because i don't know where to begin, and i can't get a law degree before i go to albuquerque to shoot, but i want a sense of what is it to study law. and he said scott tur rowe's book from 1972. have you read it? it is a memoir of him being a
first year harvard student, and it is a lot about tort law and legalese and the technical things that were helpful to read through and get an understanding of, but for the most part, it is about how studying law and then choosing or not choosing to practice law is going to practice the person who is doing it, and that idea of really getting the brain to understand that good and bad is not the sa same as legal and illegal and moral and unethical, and that is the baseline they have been g g going back to, because it is serving kim, and it is difficult for her to get the hand around. >> i know a lot of folk who are tripped up by those discussion, and many people end up no longer practicing the law, because they can't, and that is what terrell was going with? >> yes, and that challenge came up in season two of kim, and the case there. and she is struggling, and she
is struggling in a particular way with those kind of guilty consciences in the season. >> well, fortunately, you are an actor and you can just leave it there. >> i wish. [ laughter ] >> you have not really got to deal with that? >> no, my fiancee deals with many talk about it endlessly. what would you do? why would you do it? >> and i would put him high on the prayer list then. ray, great to have you on the program. and "better call saul" is the project. and thank you for watching tonight, and as always, keep the faith. for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. i'm tavis smiley and join me next time with a conversation with the legendary folk artist ar tis guthrie. that is next time. we will see you then.
good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. tonight, we are talking about music and the arts. first a conversation with the former president and the ceo of the los angeles fill har mphilh deborah border widely credited for lifting it from the shadow of a orchestra to the world stage. she is soon going to take her magic to the big apple as the orchestrator of the new york phil. and we will talk to her about her decision to move back to new york and the arts funding and, and whether it is the collaboration with drake and the seat at the table for solange's latest album, a name for himself, now, invoking the likes of bill withers, the british born musician is going to t